As many of you know I’ve participated in the annual State of Creativity Forum in Oklahoma for several years. I’ve written here previously about how effective their model is in getting broad-based involvement, participation, and attendance. This is arguably the most successful creativity conference in the world right now. Those interested in the creativity and innovation field should attend Creativity World Forum 2015 if at all possible. It’s affordable, the content is superb, and it’s a great networking opportunity. It’s in just a few weeks, so register, and make plans now to arrive in Oklahoma City for the March 31st one day event. The illustrious Sir Ken Robinson is returning as a keynoter (he has a long history with the conference and the state of Oklahoma) and there is a terific line up of speakers from Disney, Lego, Faber-Castell, and other notables from government and education. But wait, there’s more…
The Creativity Forum Conference as a Trigger for Economic Development
This is a great conference for all the usual reasons, but it’s interesting the role a conference like this can have (and has had) on real world economic development. Music fans know that a lot of great talent emerges from Oklahoma — and then moves to Nashville or Austin. Exporting cultural talent is never a good idea if you want to grow the quality of life, and, bottom line, jobs in a region. Jobs and money follow on culture (see Richard Florida). In cities like Nashville, Austin, and San Francisco, technology, manufacturing, and good paying jobs grew dramatically after those cities established a thriving arts culture. Why? Because creative people (of all kinds, not just artists, designers, technologists, etc.) like living in culturally rich places, and, creative people start companies and invent things. And big companies like locating where there is a rich talent pool. Oklahoma City has turned the corner on talent exporting, let me explain.
Oklahoma City is Emerging as a Creative Cultural Center
and — What do the Flaming Lips have to do with Economic Development?
Here’s an economic development story case-in-point: the good news to report is that as a result of a conversation held several years ago — at the very start of the Creativity Forum — a fantastic music school is prospering in Oklahoma City. The Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) was not a sparkle in anyone’s eye in 2005 when the former president of the University of Central Oklahoma, Roger Webb, and an unknown music promoter, Scott Booker met. Booker happened to be the manager of an OKC based rock band, The Flaming Lips. In talking, Scott revealed to Dr. Webb that he had graduated as a history major from the University of Central Oklahoma several years prior, but he perhaps could give back to his university and help build the music culture in Oklahoma by teaching a class in music business.
It’s quite a story how that random discussion evolved into a new school that now boasts 500 students in the Bricktown entertainment district area of Oklahoma City. The initial idea grew from one class to an entire curricula. Sir Ken Robinson suggested networking with Paul McCartney’s old school in Liverpool. They visited the ACM school in Guilford, UK, and eventually the University of Central Oklahoma created an ACM degree and school. The school (an official branch of the UK school) has been in operation since 2009, growing fast, and is attracting students from around the USA. Scott Booker is CEO . The school has pulled in such diverse artists as Daft Punk, Ben Folds, and Jackson Browne — to name just a few — to teach and share. If I were 18 and wanting to grow as a music professional I’d go there!
The founding of the school is a direct result of Oklahoma making a decision to support creativity and the conference. When they established the conference in 2005 and invested in staff (President Susan McCalmont is a hands-on visionary) they didn’t know what the results would be, but they had faith in the idea. They took a calculated risk, and their continued support has allowed for the lovely gestation of real world results. The result of the music school, and the jobs and money flowing into Oklahoma City because of it — is just a beginning, and a very good one. A flourishing arts community bodes well for the economic future of the city and the state.
Kudos Oklahoma, let’s keep hearing such good news. I have no doubt we will. And go to the conference, who knows what magic might happen.